Photo by Rosario Juan of Facebook
Food & Drink Features

This group of restos and caterers are providing free meals to frontliners treating COVID-19 patients

Their businesses may be taking a hit because of the health crisis, but these private individuals are doing what they can to help better the situation of our doctors and nurses in hospitals (11 and counting). But they need more help. By NANA OZAETA
| Mar 16 2020

In this time of pandemic, Philippine civic society has started kicking into high gear to help support the medical frontliners of Metro Manila’s hospitals in the fight against COVID-19. Aside from donations for medical supplies, there has also been a call to provide food for the doctors, fellows, residents, nurses, med techs, aides, and other personnel who have been logging long hours in their respective hospitals, with nary a break to get their own food outside.

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The alternative education group RockEdPhilippines put out a call to help on Saturday, March 14 to provide frontliners with nutritious, freshly cooked meals, whether to assist with the food preparation or donate ingredients, as well as to put up fruit stations at the ERs.

Then Karla Reyes of The Plaza Catering, Rosario Juan of Commune Café, Dr. Gia Baquiran Sison, among others soon came on board to help with the efforts, asking for donations for food and PPEs (personnel protective equipment) as well. After Reyes and Juan sent out pleas on their respective Facebook pages, lots of donations soon came pouring in, both in cash and in kind.

The effort kicked off with Makati Medical City, followed by other hospitals, namely The Medical City, Lung Center of the Philippines, Heart Center of the Philippines, Philippine General Hospital, FEU Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, San Juan de Dios, and Asian Hospital (as of this publishing).

Among the many who have generously donated is Kat Alvero-Go of Wu’s Kitchen who has committed 2,500 meals and counting for various hospitals.

According to Juan’s Facebook post, the group has deployed 1,558 meals as of 9 pm on March 15, and raised funds for another 1,200 meals. But Juan also cites, “We are foreseeing this effort to last for AT LEAST another month. So the more people we involve, the better.” 

With the initial plea, individuals and groups started sending prepared meals directly to various hospitals. What has happened, though, is there would sometimes be double the amount of food packs delivered for a specific meal time, then for another meal time, sometimes none at all. While these meals are needed and very much appreciated, Reyes and her group are working on better coordinating and scheduling the meals so that resources are distributed appropriately and each meal time is covered. As of Monday, March 16, Reyes confirms that they are all set to provide meals on a regular basis for the next two weeks. But of course, the effort will continue for the next month, or even beyond.

Among the volunteers who have answered the group’s call for help, Reyes has assigned team leaders to handle one to two hospitals in a sort of “adopt a hospital” manner. That way, there is only one assigned coordinator per hospital to make sure meals are allocated properly to each hospital and received in a timely and safe manner. Reyes is continuing to coordinate with still more Metro Manila hospitals and is looking for other team leaders to handle these.

Those who would like to help a hospital in particular can contact directly the assigned team leader listed below:

While cash donations are used to purchase the prepared meals at cost from various food establishments, people have also been dropping off donated ingredients at The Plaza’s Makati kitchen, including sacks of rice, eggs, and according to Reyes, even her meat supplier donated meat. Right now, Reyes is worried about transporting meals to the various hospitals, especially given community quarantines set in place. They currently rely on courier services, while one hospital arranges for its own pick-up, and even one doctor helps transport the food.

The group continues to solicit donations in cash and kind, with the details posted below:

The restaurant industry is one of the sectors hardest hit by this crisis, so it is even more touching to see efforts by individuals and establishments to provide food, even if their own businesses may be hurting. While the RockEd group seems to have the biggest operation to date handling Metro Manila-wide hospital meal distribution, other establishments are doing their part in small but significant ways.

Pino Restaurant and its partners Pipino Veg and Pi Breakfast & Pies in Quezon City announced free and unlimited brewed coffee from March 14 onwards for workers from East Avenue Medical Center, Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines, V. Luna Medical Center, and the University of the Philippines Diliman, upon presentation of an ID.

And not just big name restaurants are doing their bit to help. A small bakery called Wildbreads in Laguna posted on its Facebook page: “If #COVID19 (or anything in life!) is in the way of your access to food, please drop by either locations and get a baguette from us.” The post goes on to say, “Pay what you can or don’t pay at all if you are unable to, or leave any amount for anyone who might need bread for that day. We can only cover so much bread to give away; let’s reserve the free bread for those who truly need it at this time.”